September 23, 2013

Super Fan: Greatest RB in USC history? There is no doubt

Since there is no game to review this Monday, I thought I would begin an ongoing series of my all-time favorite Gamecock players by position.

Since there is no game to review this Monday, I thought I would begin an ongoing series of my all-time favorite Gamecock players by position. I will begin the series with my Top 5 running backs spanning my 30 years as a writer and my over 50 years as a fan (which means this list will not include greats Steve Wadiak or Alex Hawkins).


My No. 5 pick might surprise some of you, but I choose Ryan Brewer (1999-02). Although the Versalles, Ohio, native's name does not appear anywhere on the career rushing lists, he played an instrumental part in USC's two Outback Bowl victories over Ohio State.

Despite the fact that he rushed for a state record 2,864 yards and was named Ohio's Mr. Football his senior season at Troy High School, at 5-10, 200 pounds, South Carolina was the only Division I school to offer him a scholarship.

And as his father, Gary, recalled, things did not begin smoothly in his first week as a Gamecock under Lou Holtz. “Dad, they are doing their best to run me off,” he said. “They think I'm too little, too slow.”

His work ethic and attitude proved the staff wrong, as Brewer was named USC's Most Valuable Freshman. He was the third-leading rusher with 163 yards, the leading punt returner, with 14 for 143 yards, and leading kickoff returner with 7 for 175 yards. He also had 6 receptions for 67 yards.

Where Ryan really made his mark was in the 2001 Outback Bowl. Named the starter after Derek Watson was suspended, Brewer tallied 214 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in the 24-7 win over the Buckeyes. He was named the game's MVP. He was the leading rusher with 67 yards on 5 carries in the 2002 game, a 31-28 win, and was selected as a captain for the 2002 season.


Coming in at No. 4 on my list is Harold Green (1986-89).

A native of Ladson, Green was the state's 1985 4A Back of the Year, a prep All-American and MVP of the Shrine Bowl, where he set records for touchdowns (4), points scored (24), while rushing for 101 yards. He rushed for 2,203 yards his senior season at Stratford High School and turned down offers from heavyweights Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Penn State to join coach Joe Morrison's program.

Harold is No. 3 among career rushing leaders with 3,005 yards, second in rushing TDs for a season (15), tied for second in career touchdowns (31) and second in career rushing attempts (702).

He was an instrumental part of the back-to-back 8-4 seasons in '87 (1,022 yards) and '88 (606 yards) under Morrison, and the 6-5 '89 season under Sparky Woods (989 yards).

Harold played professionally for Cincinnati, St. Louis and Atlanta and was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2002


No. 3 on my list is Brandon Bennett (1991-94)

A native of Taylors, Brandon rushed for 2,226 yards and 20 touchdowns his senior season at Riverside High School. He earned Shine Bowl MVP honors and picked the Gamecocks over Clemson and N.C. State.

Although Carolina's record during his four seasons (1991-94) was 19-24-2, a testament to his ability is that he still holds second place on the career rushing list with 3,055 yards. He holds the one-game career rushing record with 278 yards against East Tennessee State in '91, is third on the career rushing attempts (661) and tied for fourth in career rushing touchdowns (27).

Brandon was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2004.


Although back-to-back season-ending injuries prevented him from placing higher on the career rushing records lists, I put Marcus Lattimore at No. 2 on my all-time list, as much for who he is as a person and for what he has meant to USC's program as his skill as a player.

Marcus holds the No. 1 spot for rushing touchdowns for a season (17), rushing attempts for a game (40) and rushing touchdowns for a career (38). He is fourth in career rushing attempts (555) and sixth in career rushing with 2,677 yards.

A native of Duncan, Marcus led Byrnes High School to two state championships. He was named the 2009 South Carolina Mr. Football after he gained 1,898 yards and scored 31 rushing TDs as a senior.

What makes him even more special, in my mind, is his outstanding character and tireless work ethic. His decision to attend South Carolina led to many more top-caliber recruits joining the program. “If we had a top recruiting prospect on campus Marcus was always around,” coach Steve Spurrier said.

Marcus was drafted in the 4th round by the San Francisco 49ers but is sitting out the season while he continues to rehab his knee injury.


My No. 1 running back is a no-brainer. Carolina's only Heisman Trophy winner, George Rogers is the career leading rusher in school history by a margin of over 2,000 yards (5,204) and second only to Carl Brazell (1952-55) in yards-per-carry average (5.7 to 5.5).

George’s accolades are almost endless.

His other career figures include: 113.1 rushing yards per game; 129.0 all-purpose yards per game; 202 points scored (31 touchdowns and two 2-point conversions); and 12 kickoff returns for 339 yards (28.3 avg.).

His accolades include:

-- 1980 Heisman Trophy winner and consensus first-team All-American

-- 1980 NCAA Back of the Year and the ABC-TV 1980 Player of the Year

-- No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints

-- 1981 NFL Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl selection

-- 1981 leading rusher in the NFL

-- 1988 Super Bowl Champion with the Washington Redskins

-- 1997 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductee

-- No. 38 jersey retired by South Carolina following his final home game in 1980

George is a member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame, and New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.

He is unquestionably the greatest running back in USC history.

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